Strategic Planning for Churches
Churches, like all organizations, must map-out how they plan to grow and/or sustain themselves over a period of time. This can be accomplished through a strategic plan. Strategic planning for churches steers an organization on the path to success. It is the framework that determines where an organization is going over the next year or more; how it’s going to get there; and how it will know if it got there or not. More specifically, a plan identifies the mission, vision and/or values of an organization; goals to work toward the mission, strategies to achieve the goals, and action planning (who will do what and by when). It increases effectiveness, efficiency, productivity, and accountability.
5 Steps for Church Strategic Planning
- Assemble a Team – Gather a diverse team of 5-7 church members to spearhead the church strategic planning process. For example, choose congregation members of different ages, races, men and women, as well as church leaders to ensure that the voice of the entire congregation is heard. Be sure to pick team members that are grounded in their faith and are committed to seeing the church grow or thrive.
Explain the team’s roles and responsibilities and provide a timeline for completion.
- Identify the church’s mission and vision– The mission of a church summarily states the purpose of the church given its activities and constituents. The mission statement should answer the questions, “Why are we here?” and “What are we supposed to be doing?”.
Vision statements create commitment and understanding by articulating how the organization sees the future. Vision statements answer the question of “What is being built?” It paints a clear picture of what the church will look like in 1 to 5 years.
- SWOT Analysis – A SWOT Analysis examines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of an organization’s internal and external environment. Strengths and weaknesses of the organization as they relate to achieving the objectives of the organization are identified in addition to external/environmental opportunities and threats.
The SWOT analysis will help guide the remainder of the strategic plan by identifying what objectives are or are not feasible given the internal and external environment.
- Identify Measurable Goals and Objectives – Goals and objectives are the big steps that it will take to achieve the church’s mission and vision. More specifically, goals can be seen as “micro-missions”. Within strategic planning for churches, these are components of your church’s mission in that they also state what you plan to do.
Each goal should have at least two objectives that are the stepping stones to achieving that goal. These objectives should be SMART. S.M.A.R.T refers to the acronym that describes the key characteristics of meaningful objectives, which are Specific (concrete, detailed, well defined), Measureable (numbers, quantity, comparison), Achievable (feasible, actionable), Realistic (considering resources/SWOT) and Time-Bound (a defined time line).
- Create an action plan – Church strategic planning requires you to create a plan that clearly outlines how each objective will be achieved. The actions plan should not only have steps that need to be accomplished but it should also have a timeline (when should each step be completed?) and indicate who is responsible for making sure that it is completed.
Each member of your team can be assigned a goal and create a task force consisting of other congregation members that will responsible for meeting the objectives under the goal. Specific action steps can be disbursed among the task force.
- Present the Plan – When the church strategic planning process is complete, present it to the entire congregation. Make an event out of the presentation so that the congregation is excited about the direction the church is going. Use this time to get additional feedback on the plan and to gain more volunteers for the various task forces.
Church strategic planning pushes your team to focus on the future and the commitment that it will take to make the church a success. It shows those who read it that the church is committed to a plan of action that is both sustaining and growth-oriented; one that will allow the organization to better serve its constituents.
 Thompson, Anthony C. Anchoring Your Mission. Conference Presentation at the University of Central Florida Capacity Building Institute. March 2008.
 Saint, Roy Lee. Florida Baptist Convention. Strategic Church Planning.
Ready to move forward in church strategic planning?
ChurchNet USA has professional strategic planning consulting services available to help move you forward in success. If you have any questions regarding church strategy, please feel free to call, email, or reply.